Dubai On Your Mind? Consider This Your Extensive Travel Guide To The Cityby | January 13, 2020
A melting pot of cultures, an amalgamation of old and new, and a city firmly rooted in tradition with a futuristic vision, Dubai in many ways is a contradictory place, in the best possible way. A destination that can be labelled as both underrated and overrated at once, Dubai has different facets for each traveller to explore that will, in the end, help them form that opinion.
With the ongoing Dubai Shopping Festival, there is no better time to visit the fantastical place than now. With the Expo 2020 that is set to take place later this year, Dubai is buzzing with activity. It comes as no surprise then, that the city has been touted as one of the must-visit places in 2020 by CNTraveller.
Whether or not you have visited Dubai, this is a city that never sleeps and is always innovating. We take you through a virtual tour of Dubai.
Top Things To Do
Dubai is an architectural marvel with majestic high rises balanced with scenic beaches and serene deserts. While Old Dubai flaunts the traditional markets, a walk along Marina or a trip to Downtown Dubai will showcase the luxurious aspect the city is revered for.
The tallest building in the world, the magnificent structure is 828m tall and doesn’t fail to impress. Located next to Dubai Mall, the building has two observation decks: At The Top on the 124th and the 125th floor, and subsequently the world’s highest observation deck on the 148th-floor ar 555m. Enjoy unparalleled sweeping views of Dubai, a heady mix of beaches, deserts, and high-rises. While here, enjoy the fountain show that takes place at regular intervals throughout the day, while the Burj Khalifa lights up in vibrant graphics.
Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab is one of the most famous landmarks in Dubai. The sail-shaped building has its own island and its unique structure rises 321m, providing guests with amazing views of the Arabian Gulf. With gold interiors, lavish suites, and some of Dubai’s best restaurants, Burj Al Arab is one of the most luxurious places to stay in Dubai.
A trip to Dubai isn't complete without a trip to the famous Gold Souk, one of the oldest and most fascinating traditional markets. Whether or not you intend to buy gold, a walk through the glittering Gold Souk is a must. Ogle at the biggest selection of gold jewellery and gemstones crafted in a variety of carats.
A sensory explosion, the Spices Souk is filled with small retailers selling spices from India, Pakistan, and Iran. With an intoxicating smell of cloves and cinnamon floating in the air, bargain your way to good deals, and don’t forget to snag some saffron on the way back. A short abra ride away from Dubai Creek, the journey is an experience in itself.
Pick your soon-to-be favourite traditional scent from the hundreds of different stalls strewn here. You will find several Arabian scents, some mild and the others potent, which can be purchased in incense form or in stick, powder, crystal, rock or wood element. Here, you can also learn all about oud and bakhoor.
Located near Dubai Creek, Al Seef was launched as recently as late 2017 and is where beautiful traditions meet modern designs. Walk the charming walkways and indulge in some chomping at the dining boulevard.
Al Fahidi Historical Centre
Get a taste of Old Dubai at the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. A key heritage site which has preserved much of the original infrastructure, it comprises of several narrow alleyways and twisted pathways that tell a story of what life was like in Dubai. Enjoy traditional food here, and soak in the culture at the museums and art galleries.
The Marina is lined with luxury yachts and boats at eye-level and sparkling high-rises when you look up. A 7km long path bordering the emerald waterway, the entire stretch boasts of hip restaurants, cafes, bars, and shisha lounges. A joggers and skateboarders’ playground, you can dine Al Fresco and enjoy the views, or enjoy a long walk along the path.
Jumeriah Beach Residence
For a taste of the idyllic beachside lifestyle, make your way to The Beach at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residences). This bustling cosmopolitan area is swarming with hip restaurants, luxury hotels, expensive cars, beachside dining, shopping, and a popular beach: the makings of a perfect day out.
Dubai startled the world with their imagination and their engineering with Palm Jumeriah. Built from reclaimed land in a series of artificial archipelagos, a bird’s eye view of this spectacular island resembles a palm tree. It is a popular spot for sky diving, offering unparalleled views of the city and its famous skyline. This unique island is also home to some of the best luxury hotels in the world and offers some fantastic fine dining options. Head here for a luxury experience that is synonymous with Dubai.
A little bit of LA in Dubai, La Mer is a one-stop destination for adventure, food, and shopping. With open spaces lined with palm trees, graffiti art, creative murals to take selfies against and laidback charm, La Mer is the place to eat, play, and unwind with your family or with friends.
Dubai Frame is a window into the city’s picturesque past, present, and future. Standing tall in Zabeel Park, the Frame offers sweeping panoramic views of the city. At 150m tall, the unique structure resembling a picture frame gives you a peek into Dubai’s historic district to the north, while the south provides stunning vistas of the city’s famed skyline. The sky deck opens up to a 50m long opaque glass bridge that becomes clear upon walking. This gives you a feeling of walking in the air. Don’t miss the Future Zone: an immersive time tunnel that fast-forwards to 50 years from now with flying taxis, underwater living, and incredible missions to space.
Dubai Aquarium and Zoo
Don’t forget to explore one of the largest aquariums in the world: Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. The giant 10 million-litre tank contains more than 33,000 aquatic animals and the largest collection of sand tiger sharks. Located inside The Dubai Mall, the aquarium is home to 140 species of sea life. Stroll through a 48m tunnel, with the aquarium enveloping you from overhead, go snorkelling in the tank or don an oxygen tank to go swimming with the sharks.
Experience the arts and culture scene of the city at the Dubai Opera. A world-class performing arts destination, it sits next to The Dubai Fountain from The Dubai Mall. Catch a ballet or a large-scale musical when here.
This year marks Dubai’s 25th edition of Dubai Shopping Festival, on until February 1st. A paradise for shoppers, this is when the city’s malls and shopping destinations come alive and offer discounts and unbeatable deals on everything from fashion to electronics. Along with discounts ranging from 25 to 75 percent, you can also enjoy spectacular fireworks every weekend across several locations in the city. Head to The Beach at JBR, Al Seef or La Mer for the best vantage points.
If you are a shopper heading to Dubai, here are some of the best malls to visit:
The world’s largest mall, Dubai Mall has everything imaginable under one roof. From an Olympic-sized ice skating rink to the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, you’ll find 1000s of retailers under one roof. This includes high-street favourites such as Topshop and Zara, department stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Galeries Lafayette and Fashion Avenue, a section of the mall that is dedicated to luxury fashion and houses labels such as Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Fendi, and Dior. If you tire of shopping, it also has restaurants that offer some of the best food across cuisines for everyone to enjoy.
One of the older malls in Dubai, located in the Bur Dubai neighbourhood, BurJuman is a one-stop-shop for popular global brands such as H&M, Forever 21, Splash, Zara, Adidas and more. Visit the mall to shop, catch a movie, or to enjoy a wide range of dining options.
City Walk, Jumeirah
With startling views of Burj Khalifa, City Walk is where Middle Eastern architecture meets European street shopping and outdoor markets. Redefining the shopping experience, this is where you will find fashion boutiques interspersed between Michelin-starred restaurants. With a wide selection of entertainment, you can walk this expanse for cute cafes and street food.
Dubai Festival City Mall
Set on the banks of Dubai Creek, the sprawling Dubai Festival City Mall is home to over 400 stores including a massive IKEA department store that sees throngs of people. This mall gives you a chance to stroll along its charming Canal Walk or ride the abra at the waterfront restaurants.
Mall of the Emirates
Lined with luxury stores and some of the best restaurants and hipster cafes, Mall of the Emirates is also home to Ski Dubai and Magic Planet, the perfect indoor activity for kids. With departmental stores like Harvey Nichols, Marks & Spencer, and Debenhams, you can also enjoy a film at the VOX Cinemas.
Dubai Marina Mall
Located by the beautiful and lively Marina, Dubai Marina Mall has a range of international retailers with several affordable high-street fashion and beauty brands. There’s plenty of choice for the foodies, with outdoor alfresco seating along the marina. Attached to the mall is Pier 7, which offers seven exciting dining concepts and incomparable views.
Dubai is lined with several beaches swarming with people who are sunbathing, indulging in water sports or eating at a nearby cafe with beach views. If you are a water baby, these are the beaches we recommend you cruise.
The Beach by JBR
Located opposite The Walk at Jumeriah Beach Residence, The Beach offers views of Dubai Eye on one side and the high rises and hotels on the other. You can see the Atlantis in the distance, as well as people who are sky diving and paragliding up above. The Walk is lined with restaurants, so don’t forget to pig out after a beach session under the sun.
With a backdrop of Dubai’s most iconic hotel, Burj Al Arab, Sunset beach is one of the most visited beaches in the city. Also known as Umm Suqeim Beach, head here for some fun surfing, by renting a board at Surf House Dubai nestled nearby.
Named so because it is a favourite amongst kite surfers, this is where you want to be if you want to enjoy sporting activities such as beach volleyball, paddle-boarding, and kayaking. Once your adrenaline level has hiked, head to the beach canteen to enjoy some great food. Visit Salt, a famous food cart-style cafe that serves delicious burgers.
With two beaches, North Beach and South Beach, this new beachside destination has plenty of watersports you can indulge in. From wakeboarding to flyboarding, they have the most Intagrammable shower cabins in rainbow hues. Lined with exceptional restaurants, cafes, and boutiques, this is perfect if you wish to spend the entire day enjoying the sun and the surf.
Whether you are visiting the city with your buddies, your partner or with your family and kids, Dubai has something to offer for everyone. If you seek the thrill of adventure, why not indulge in some activities that Dubai is known for?
The skyline dotted with twinkling highrises and gorgeous beaches makes Dubai extremely unique. Get a bird’s eye view of the majestic skyline and the Palm Jumeirah with aerial sports. The glorious year-round sunshine makes skydiving the perfect activity to enjoy the beautiful weather and pristine views. It is considered the number one place in the world to do this to skydive.
Dubai is all about water activities such as diving, sailing, and jet-skiing. For the thrill-seekers, make the most of the amazing weather and opt for a leisurely dusk sail or for something that will set your heart racing like parasailing and flyboarding. Head to the beaches and discover these activities.
Desert safari and dune bashing are quintessentially Dubai. Enjoy the thrills of the dessert in an open buggy or opt for a quad bike to traverse the choppy sands. If you head out to the desert in the evening, you can also enjoy a traditional belly dance show accompanied by food and beverages. You could also indulge in some sand-boarding and camel riding for a complete experience, and proceed to sleep under the starlit desert sky.
Only in Dubai can you go skiing in a desert. Located inside the Mall of the Emirates, Ski Dubai brings a little bit of Switzerland to the desert. With slopes to ski on, cosy chalets surrounding them, and restaurants to sip hot cocoa, you can get the authentic experience here. Play with penguins, build a snowman or sit on a classic chairlift, the options are endless.
A world-famous culinary hotspot, Dubai is home to brilliant restaurants helmed by acclaimed chefs and unique gourmet concepts. For a gastronomical adventure and luxurious Michelin-star experience, head to one of these restaurants.
Located at the W Dubai - The Palm, it is headed Massimo Bottura. His first restaurant outside of Italy, Torno Subito offers prime beachside views along with delicious Italian food ranging from tagliatelle al ragù pasta, catch of the day cooked in a pizza oven, and irresistible gelato.
La Petite Maison
Nestled in the Dubai International Financial Centre, La Petite Maison doesn’t fail to impress. The Niçoise restaurant, which also has locations in London and Miami, serves fine French Mediterranean cuisine. Try signatures such as the creamy burrata salad or the roast baby chicken marinated in lemon.
One of London’s most popular restaurants, Coya serves inspired Peruvian plates. Think refreshing ceviches, delightful tiraditos, and flavour-packed anticuchos. Located at the Restaurant Village by Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, head to Coya for a stunning setting complemented by slick service.
Michelin-starred chef Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa continues to amaze us with his culinary skills at Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm. With a contemporary Japanese menu spiked with a South American twist, the sushi served at Nobu is like none other.
With outposts in Miami, London, and New York, Zuma is impressive. Choose from small plates such as salmon and tuna tartare with sevruga caviar to signature dishes including seabass with yuzu, truffle oil, and salmon roe. The chic setting just adds to the restaurant’s allure.
Dubai is famed for its nightlife, the clubs, and the endless all-night parties. If partying is on your mind, then we tell you just the clubs to dance your night away at.
The sister-property of Beirut’s famed Skybar, Sky2.0 is recognisable by its unique UFO-style architecture. Located in Design District, the club is open three nights per week, with music ranging from R&B and hip-hop to house.
White Dubai is a must-visit if you’re looking for a hardcore nightlife experience. The club is known to host big artists from around the world such as Steve Aoki, Jason Derulo, Skepta, and Tinie Tempah.
Toy Room is the place to be if you are looking to catch the performances of the scene’s most popular singers and rappers.
Want to party inside the Burj Khalifa? Head to Armani Privé that is located on the 1st floor of the building. Designed by none other than Giorgio Armani, the club gives you a taste of luxury. Open through the week, they have ladies’ night each week with free drinks for women.
Much like Roberto Cavalli’s designs, the Cavalli Club is flashy and over-the-top. With extravagant interiors, head there for an impressive line-up of performers.
Getting Around: With cabs readily available, you can also Uber or Careem your way to a destination. The Metro is a convenient way to get around, zipping around the city every few minutes.
Best Time to Visit: November to February is when the weather in Dubai is perfect for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
Featured Image: Unsplash